Fletchers warns Ihumātao protestors, Government that it can't 'hold off development indefinitely'

Katie Bradford
Source: 1News

Fletchers is warning the Ihumātao protestors and the Government that it can’t held off on developing its legally held land indefinitely.

The construction company released its half-year financial results today.

But Fletchers chief executive Ross Taylor addressed the controversial issue of the Ihumātao land it owns in South Auckland.

He says the Prime Minister requested Fletchers paused its planned housing development on the land in July last year and he’s confident a solution will be found in the short term.

“While this is encouraging, the reality is that we are the legal owners of a piece of land which is fully consented, that is empathetic to iwi considerations …and which we are entitled to develop,” he told media on a conference call.

“Fletcher Building has done our very best to allow for the parties to reach an agreement over an extended period, but we are not in a position to hold off development indefinitely,” Mr Taylor warned.

Mr Taylor said the company was certainly not willing to wait “another seven months” for a resolution to the dispute.

“We’re not putting a hard deadline on it but not another seven months,” he told 1 NEWS.

He also refused to say how much money the company was losing for every day the dispute carried on.

He also refused to comment on the size of any compensation payout to Fletchers, which is estimated could be around $40 million.

The company has been “dutifully silent” on the issue over the last seven months and had no plans to provide a running commentary, he said.

The Government had indicated a resolution to the Ihumātao dispute would be in place early this year, but that was yet to eventuate.

1 NEWS understands the Kiingitanga was going over the deal at the weekend.

Kiingi Tuuheitia’s spokeswoman Rukumoana Schaafhausen has not returned calls.

Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) leader Pania Newton told 1 NEWS that she had expected an update over the weekend, but nothing landed.

Asked if she was worried about the construction giant’s position around its right to develop the land, Ms Newton she wasn’t.

“I’m here living my best life," Ms Newton said.

All of Fletchers equipment had been taken, SOUL was still occupying Ihumātao and those on the land were already “managing” the land as if an agreement had been reached, she said.

“We’ve taken possession of all the buildings on the whenua. Nothing really changes unless they try to evict us.”

Fletcher Building purchased the Ihumātao land in South Auckland in 2016 and planned to build 480 homes on the site. Those plans were put on hold in July 2019 when protestors occupied the site to stop the development.

Kiingi Tuuheitia visited Ihumātao on August 3, 2019 and raised his manawa as a symbol of peace and unity and offered to facilitate discussions between mana whenua who agreed that they wanted their land returned.

Ihumātao is a sacred site to Māori. There is archaeological evidence of horticulture, gardening and established community life dating back to the 1500s.

In the 1860s Māori were evicted from the land, their homes destroyed, their lands confiscated then subdivided and sold to British immigrants.